Sunday, March 27, 2011

sweden q&a, part II


:: What is is like having a Universal Healthcare system, and how does that work in Sweden?

To explain the Swedish health care system one has to explain about Sweden's tax system. Sweden has local taxes, county council tax, state tax, sales tax and certain excise taxes. In total the burden of taxation is something like 47%. High taxes, but in principal free education and health care plus subsidized public transportation.

Back to health care, approximately 12% of the taxes goes to the county council tax/health care. In short, no matter if you have a sprained ankle or in need of a heart surgery, health care is available for all. You pay a small patient's fee (in the vicinity of 20-30$) for a non-emergency doctor's appointment. Costs are capped at 900 SEK a year for doctor’s visits, with similar low amounts for other medical care and medicine. If you need to be hospitalized you pay a small amount per day for that too.

I'm absolutely certain a universal health-care system is a great thing for any society. I further believe that the quality of health care in Sweden is in general good (even if it has been under many cost cuts for centuries now). I also think that unfortunately, like in any country, tax-money are far from always used in the best and most prudent of ways, in general there's just no sense of responsibility when it comes to "other people's money", this is also the case with our health-care system. Is money allocated wisely? No it is not, but if it was, in every sense, my opinion is that a universal health-care system is really very much a basic human rights issue.

Touch wood I haven't been forced to deal a lot with the health care system, but for those times I and/or family and friends have there have been overall good care and treatments. With some low-points, but, touch wood, no catastrophes.

My general view of the nearby health care centre (vårdcentral) is far from good though. The nurses and physiotherapists have been overall competent and good at their work, the doctors on the other hand have been very much not. I've most always been forced to seek another doctor's view on seemingly small matters, due to those doctors' incompetence and lack of patient interest. I used to have a really great doctor at a private practice (found by chance) in the city, she's retired since a few years and I haven't been able to find anyone that decent and on the same wavelength so to say again. Apart from specialist  Doctor Feist of course.

More information about the Swedish health care system can be found here - here - here

:: How would you characterize the Swedish people in general?

It's really very difficult to characterize Swedes in general, even for someone born, bred, living here. I too sometimes say that "oh, so typically Swedish", but when I get a question about it, it's tricky to come up with those answers. But I've tried to think it through thoroughly, here follow my very personal generalisations (with exceptions that make me happy here and there) from my point of Sweden-born-and-bred-observation view on Swedes and Sweden;

* Swedes are (with exceptions everywhere) lulled into a false sense of social security by the government, authorities and the huge public sector. I feel that a healthy blend of public sector (for all the basic needs as health care, education, care of children and old people, unemployment benefits etc) and freedom for citizens to creatively chose their own way of life, living, working is essential. In Sweden that is not the case.

Here the vast public sector and big business always get interpretive prerogative whilst the small entrepreneurs most always get a lousy deal. I feel there's just too little room for people to have truly independent lives in Sweden, we are a population of safety addicts. Independent thinkers need not trouble themselves because they will not really be heard anyway. Once upon a time I wasn't nearly as critical about Sweden as I am now, but when life give you lemons you don't only make a lemon cake you also get wiser and insightful with it.

* a general fear of conflicts, on a personal level as well as on a larger scale.  

* well-travelled.
* well-versed in languages and politics (national and international), thank goodness for not having dubbed television!

* modern - in a way that leads to an anxiety of being un-fashionable and retrogressive, thus wholeheartedly accepting anything and everything new, no matter how stupid and ill-thought through, as THE thing to be and/or do. News-flash: progress is far from always the latest fad, the latest directive, the latest statement from authorities.
* an all prevailing sense of "this is how we do it in Sweden, therefor this is the best way of doing it"
* odd and colourful personalities are not really well-seen, to be one in a crowd is to be preferred.

* instead of doing it yourself, there's a sense of "someone should do this for me". It's very much not a coincidence the word "ombudsman" is a Swedish word exported.
* a general unhealthy approach to alcohol, no boundaries, no common sense. To socialize is to drink alcohol, to drink alcohol is the norm.

* the love of fika - the Swedish coffeebreak, which I adore in general, in good company, but which I hate when it's the institutionalized thing at least twice a day in most public sector workplaces. Anything forced upon give an unpleasant tang.

* dress the same, look the same, buy the same - with IKEA and H&M being two of Sweden's most successful and praised companies.
* Swedish companies in general aren't very hierarchical, the organisations are flat and decision-making is delegated. There's a sense of (at least on surface) consensus.
* Anglo-Saxon sense of humour.

* Swedish television, movies and music are dominated by British and American productions. Overall Sweden is quite an Americanized society.
* very good at recycling and eco-thinking in general - as a small example glass has been recycled for 40 years already and paper about that time too.
* high access rate to computers and Internet - I'd say about 90% of Swedes have a computer of their own.

* much embraced by most is that the old traditional Swedish home-cooking (meatballs, fish-dishes, smörgåsbord etc) have been replaced by international food and fast food, pizza, pasta, sushi, tacos, thai-food and so forth.
* well-organized public transportation system in most every city, bus, trains, undergrounds, trams - although well-organized sadly doesn't always mean they work or run well by schedule these days.
* Swedes have become so accustomed to a certain standard, that things should work, the sense of entitlement is everywhere. I feel one can on the one hand be in the right to demand things to work, to be functional, on the other hand it is prudent to chose one's battles and not simply whine and grump about everything.

There are indeed lots of things, situations and behaviours to whine and grump about, I just wish more could take action, take a stand, make a difference where it matters and not only keep on grumble and moan for a while, now and then, in near silence, with that sense of entitlement always close at hand.

sweden q&a, part I

any questions on stockholm, sweden?


Olga Walker said...

Very interesting post - I totally agree with your sentiments about more people taking positive approaches and taking a stand to make a difference where it matters.

Olga from

Lolai said...

Thanks for the info! My favorite band is Swedish (Blindside) so I've been curious about Swedish society for a long time.

Angella said...

I love these Q & A posts. It never fails to open my eyes to a different perspective on cultural differences. (I love being one in the crowd, and have a personal fear of conflicts. I should relocate)

Camp Nou Guest said...

Your post on Sweden was very interesting. I love learning about different cultures & their customs so this was really vital in reading.

Change Relationship said...

Wow I enjoy reading your post. I learn a lot from it and understand how Sweden society goes. Thanks for sharing this informative article.

P.K said...

Interesting posts. I am surprised to learn that you have to pay a fee for a visit to the doctor. We don't. But there are a lot of whinging doctors out there feeling underpaid.

Caro said...

Hej! That's a really interesting post... I agree with most of it, but the traditional swedish food is still embraced - at least here in Lund. Köttbullar and so on are quite favourite here - at least that's my experience here.


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